Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has lambasted Rupert Murdoch before Britain's media ethics inquiry, claiming the media mogul lied under oath to the inquiry and saying a Murdoch tabloid had undermined the war effort in Afghanistan.
In an often bitter attack, Brown directly contradicted Murdoch's claim that Brown had vowed to "make war on your company" during an abusive phone call after Murdoch's The Sun tabloid switched its support from Brown's Labour Party to the rival Conservatives.
"It didn't happen," said Brown, adding that he had been shocked to hear Murdoch make the allegation to the inquiry in April. "This call did not happen, this threat was not made."
Murdoch's News International company fired back, saying in a statement that the mogul stood by his testimony.
Brown was the first in a string of current and former political leaders to appear this week at the inquiry, set up amid a tabloid phone hacking scandal to examine malpractice in the British media and too-cozy ties among politicians, police and the press.
Among the issues the inquiry is addressing is whether newspapers have too much power over the country's political agenda.
Brown told the judge-led inquiry The Sun was guilty of "the conflation of fact and opinion" in its coverage of the Afghanistan conflict and of his premiership.
He said instead of covering the difficult decisions facing his government, The Sun had concluded "that I personally did not care about our troops in Afghanistan".
He said the newspaper had made a series of spurious claims, for example that he had fallen asleep during a service of remembrance for dead troops. Brown said he had been bowing his head in prayer.
Brown asserted The Sun's coverage had done "huge damage" to the British war effort against the Taliban. The former prime minister said the press had "failed this country" by focusing on opinions and ephemera when the war in Afghanistan was at a crucial stage.
The Sun's political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, denied Brown's allegations, saying on Twitter the newspaper had given the conflict prominent coverage.
"Military loathed Brown because they felt he didn't care about them. Sun reported that, but Gordon rewrites history to shoot the messenger," he tweeted.
Brown also spoke of his pain at seeing leaked details of his young son's health splashed in The Sun. The tabloid revealed in 2006 that Brown's infant son Fraser had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.